Blues GM on team’s core group: ‘They have to get us out of this’

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Craig Berube has been through this before. Three games into the 2013-14 NHL season he replaced Peter Laviolette in Philadelphia. He may have been fired 18 months later, but immediately he helped turn around the Flyers’ season and led them to a playoff berth.

The mandate is the same now in St. Louis where Berube, who had been an associate coach with the Blues since last season, takes over a team that’s once again underachieving and in next-to-last place in the Western Conference with a 7-9-3 record. A look at the various statistical categories and you’ll see that they’re middle of the road. Nothing great, nothing terrible — they just… are. And that’s why Yeo is out of a job. He couldn’t take a roster that was upgraded over the summer and bring them to a level beyond mediocre.

Four months after being fired by the Minnesota Wild in 2016, Yeo was hired as the successor to Ken Hitchcock in St. Louis. That plan was sped up after Hitchcock’s firing in Feb., 2017 and the Blues went 22-8-2 down the stretch and eventually were dumped out of the playoffs by the conference champion Nashville Predators in the second round.

What helped that revival was balanced scoring and Jake Allen posting a .941 even strength save percentage in his final 24 starts that regular season. But that number wasn’t sustainable and since the end of the 2016-17 season Allen has a .914 ESSV% in 73 appearances. 

[Blues fire Yeo, name Berube interim head coach]

This season it’s not just on Allen. The possession numbers could be better. Vladimir Tarasenko is shooting 4.26 percent at 5-on-5. David Perron is goalless in November. Patrick Maroon is goalless all season. We’re still waiting on rookies Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas to make an impact.

Ryan O’Reilly’s back must be hurting from carrying the team through 19 games.

Good goaltending can mask many things, and it will also make you wonder if allowing Carter Hutton to walk was the best idea. It should also up the pressure on GM Doug Armstrong, who’s now hired another coach to try and fix a mess. (At least he top-10 protected that 2019 first that went to the Sabres in the O’Reilly trade.)

When Armstrong met the media on Tuesday, he honed in on his team’s core group, and was fed up with how their output.

“We’re not good enough,” he said. “As a general manager, the wins and losses fall on hockey operations and as the president of hockey operations and the general manager of the team there’s things that need to be addressed. We’ve stayed patient with the core group of players and that patience now is at its thinnest point.”

The head coach is gone. The boss, for now, remains. There won’t be a handful of trades coming to re-shape the roster. Armstrong is putting this season directly on his top players.

“The core group’s equity that built up is gone,” he said. “We transferred into a different group. That group isn’t three people; that group’s eight or nine people in my opinion. They have to get us out of this.”

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If Berube’s not the answer long-term, then who do the Blues turn to? The obvious candidate is Joel Quenneville, who’s clearly been enjoying his unemployment.

But Quenneville won’t come cheap and is still under contract to the Blackhawks through the end of the 2019-20 season. The Blues would need to seek permission from Chicago to go about hiring him and then they’d have to work out a big money contract. Would owner Tom Stillman be open to ponying up the cash for a fix?

Hey, Todd McLellan’s available now and comes with a cheaper price tag.

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Here’s a fun fact: Since Armstrong took over from Larry Pleau in 2010 the Blues are tied with the Boston Bruins for the third-most regular season wins (365). That’s pretty good considering the Central Division can tout two Stanley Cup champions, two Presidents’ Trophy winning teams and three Western Conference playoff titles over that span.

Of course, during that same period the Blues have only advanced out of the second round once.

Digging deeper into the NHL’s records and you’ll find that Armstrong’s Dallas Stars teams had the fourth-most regular season wins during his 2,118 days as the team’s GM. The end result? One second round appearance, 2002, during the year he took over the gig midseason.

Davis Payne, Hitchcock and now Yeo have taken the fall for their underperforming teams. How much longer does the architect get to keep building them?

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Flyers’ Lecavalier will not retire ‘under any circumstances,’ says agent

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It appears as though Vincent Lecavalier could spend a third season in Philadelphia.

Speaking to TSN’s Frank Seravalli, Lecavalier’s agent Kent Hughes said his client would not retire “under any circumstances”. The Flyers have not contacted Lecavalier about a possible buyout either.

According to Capfriendly.com, buying out Lecavalier would cost the Flyers $2.9 million against the cap in each of the next three seasons. He would then be on the books for an $888,889 cap hit from 2018-21.

Hughes’ latest comments come after he suggested in March that his client could retire before his five-year, $22.5 million contract expires.

The 35-year-old appeared in 57 games for the Flyers in 2014-15 scoring eight goals and 12 assists to go along with a minus-7 rating while averaging 12:39 in time on ice.

Lecavalier’s name surfaced in trade rumors last May, as he was unable to fit into Craig Berube’s system.

It was suggest then that a move to Nashville, where he could reunite with Peter Laviolette, would be a good fit. Laviolette reportedly lobbied for the Flyers to sign Lecavalier after the Tampa Bay Lightning bought him out.

During the 2014-15 season Lecavalier told The Canadian Press that he would likely benefit from a change of scenery.

“Maybe it’s just a better opportunity I need,” said Lecavalier. “It happens to a lot of guys. Sometimes you just have to get out of it, try to get out of it and work hard through it and maybe another opportunity will happen.”

His comments came just days after Berube said he felt more comfortable with Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare as his centers.

In 126 games over two seasons with the Flyers Lecavalier has 28 goals, 57 points and a minus-7 rating.

Report: Eakins on Flyers radar for coaching vacancy

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Former Edmonton Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins is on Philadelphia Flyers’ short list to fill their coaching vacancy.

According to Sportsnet’s Damien Cox, Eakins, who was fired by the Oilers in December, could be a possibility to fill the spot left by the recently fired Craig Berube.

Eakins led the Oilers to a 36-62-14 record over parts of two seasons.

Prior to taking the coaching job in Edmonton, Eakins spent four seasons with the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies.

Philadelphia finished 24th overall this season with a 33-31-18 record in Berube’s second season behind the Flyers’ bench. The 49-year-old was fired on April 17.

Video: Simmonds’ shootout winner lifts the Flyers over the Coyotes

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Wayne Simmonds had the lone shootout goal as the Flyers battled back for a 4-3 win over the Coyotes Tuesday night.

Philly has now won two straight shootout contests after starting the season 0-5.

Arizona opened a 2-0 lead scoring two goals on their first four shots chasing Flyers’ starter Ray Emery.

Connor Murphy and Martin Erat scored in a 2:17 span of the first period forcing Craig Berube to make a goaltending change.

Steve Mason made 22 saves in relief of Emery to improve to 9-12-6 on the season.

Simonds got the Flyers on the board near the midway mark of the first period and R.J. Umberger tied it 2-2 in the second.

Michael Del Zotto scored his fourth of the season at 18:59 of the middle frame briefly giving Philly a 3-2 lead.

However, 23 seconds later, Tobias Rieder tied it 3-3.

Coyotes captain Shane Doan had to assists in the loss.

Mike Smith made 39 saves.

Arizona doubled up Philadelphia 4-2 on Dec. 29 in the only other meeting between the two clubs this season.

Video: Mason replaces Emery in the Flyers’ net

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Goaltender Ray Emery had a tough return from the All-Star break.

The Flyers’ starter allowed two goals on the first four shots of the game and was replaced by Steve Mason just 5:50 into the first period.

Connor Murphy opened the scoring for the Arizona Coyotes with his third of the season and Martin Erat netted his seventh in a 2:17 span.

Flyers’ coach Craig Berube had seen enough sending Mason in for Emery.

Mason is making his first appearance since Jan. 10 when he left Philadelphia’s game against Boston with a lower body injury.